When the Apostle Paul called himself the “chiefest of sinners” (1Tim. 1:15), he was not attempting to patronize us or offer a form of self-abased false humility. Instead, he really meant it. He knew the workings of his own heart better than any other person. He understood his failings and struggles. He knew that even though he was forgiven, he still fell short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23) After all, before his conversion Paul ravaged the church by arresting men and women, casting them into prison with harsh persecution and even consenting to their death. I believe their faces and his attacks on them were a constant reminder to him of God’s grace.
Because of this, Paul’s writings strike a wonderful example of speaking “truth in love.” (Eph. 4:15) As believers who live in the midst of a society which has many culturally charged issues in the public square, we would do well to embrace the same truth about ourselves. We are sinners redeemed by God’s grace. We still fall short of God’s standard and His glory. As long as we live on the shores of time we will fall short of perfection.
The only thing which separates us from the men of this world is that we have been forgiven through faith in Christ and have the Holy Spirit to empower us to live an obedient and righteous life. Because of this, we can never justify what we see in many ministries. That is, the attitudes and actions of disrespect and high-mindedness. Christ is the only thing we can boast in–not our morality or righteous–only Jesus. (1Cor. 1:29-31)
What would change in our life is we really saw ourself as the chiefest of sinners?
- We would be gentle
- We would be loving
- We would be respectful to dissenting views
- We would speak truth out of love
- We would be patient
- We would react with blessing instead of hatred when done wrong
- We would stand on our convictions with grace and humility
- We would be kind